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An In-depth Look at Windows 7

A few days ago, I shared my initial thoughts on Windows 7. After spending more time with the operating system, I now share my findings and whether or not I feel Windows 7 will be a worthwhile upgrade.

I agree that Microsoft ran a little faster than they new how with Vista, which hurt them a lot. Windows 7 better be good, or people will either stick with XP until 2013, or switch to Linux, Mac, or the next big OS (will there be one soon?)

In this review, I’ll explore some of the new features Windows 7 brings and whether I like them or not. I’ll take a look at updated core applications, desktop and window management, home networking, and built-in troubleshooting. Then you decide… is Windows 7 a worthwhile upgrade?

What Will Windows 7 Bring?

Let’s take a look at the new features in Windows 7 and see how they fair up. Before I begin, I must avoid repetition by stating the Windows 7 UI is much tidier and a lot less cluttered, which is favorable for my opinion. I still wish Windows apps would have ‘standard’ and ‘advanced’ modes, so basic users could navigate more easily, while more experienced users could use the programs to their full potential, but I’ll overlook that for now.

Updated Core Applications

A lot of the programs that skipped an upgrade (or didn’t change enough to count) in Windows Vista have been overhauled in Windows 7. Programs like Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer are always updated to the latest version with each iteration of Windows, but programs like Paint, Calculator, and Wordpad usually remain the same. While the three mentioned programs are simple, their UI and functionality can always be improved–which is the case in 7, so let’s take a look.

MS Paint

Figure 1 - Brushes in MS Paint

Figure 1 - Brushes in MS Paint

I personally use Paint a lot and usually use keyboard shortcuts; thus, avoiding the menus. However, with Paint’s new look and ribbon menu system, I’m sure I’ll use the mouse a lot more, which is something you can’t really aboid in graphics software anyway. As you can see in Figure 1, paint now comes with a set of brushes, which are completely useless for me, but I’m sure will come in handy for many smaller-scale graphic projects.

Figure 2 - Shapes in MS Paint

Figure 2 - Shapes in MS Paint

Figure 2 reveals the shape option: yes, you can even add fun shapes in Paint now, which will make annotating screenshots, for example, a lot easier.

Figure 3 - Full Screen in MS Paint

Figure 3 - Full Screen in MS Paint

Finally, in Figure 3, you can see the Full Screen option, which allows you to view your masterpiece without any distractions–fantastic. Overall, I like the new version of paint–a lot–and will continue to be a regular user of the software.

Wordpad

Figure 4 - Home Tab on Wordpad Ribbon

Figure 4 - Wordpad Ribbon UI

In a similar fashion to Paint, Wordpad is now equipped with the ribbon UI. I feel the ribbon UI is just as helpful in Wordpad and by now, many users are familiar (and in favor) with this interface. I’m pretty sure there are no new features in Windows 7’s Wordpad, but it is easier to use and just as useful to me. The home tab seems a little redundant in the ribbon UI, because it’s the only tab. Microsoft probably left this in for one of two reasons: 1) consistency 2) room for expansion in future releases. See Figure 4, which highlights the Home tab as the only tab.

Wordpad - Screenshot 3 Wordpad - Screenshot 2 Wordpad - Screenshot 4

Calculator

Gas Mileage Calculator

Figure 5 - Gas Mileage Calculator

The most impressive update to a core application, by far, is the update to the Calculator. The calculator now comes with a bunch of handy tools like a mortgage calculator, a gas mileage calculator (figure 5), a statistics mode, and even a programmer mode. The new version of the calculator also comes with a history, which means you no longer have to keep 3 or more instances of the calculator open at once to retain the results of your calculations. Previously I reviewed FreeCalc, which pretty much becomes redundant when Windows 7 is released.

Enjoy the array of screenshots of the new calculator:

Desktop and Window Management

Windows Vista did nothing in the realm of Window management. Windows 7 puts Vista to shame and has some really cool features including Snap to Docking, Aero Shake, an Updated Taskbar, Jump Lists, and Gadgets wherever you want them. I already find myself attempting to use these features when I boot back into Vista or Windows Server 2008, which is a good sign that they are really useful.

Snap to Docking

Figure 6 - Maximize Windows with Snap to Docking

Figure 6 - Maximize Windows with Snap to Docking

Figure 7 - Compare Windows Side by Side

Figure 7 - Compare Windows Side by Side

By far my favorite new window management feature is snap to docking. Basically, if you want to maximize a window, drag it to the top of the screen (figure 6); if you want to restore the window, drag it from the top of the screen; if you want to compare two windows side by side, drag each one to the side of the screen (figre 7)–it’s as simple as that and I absolutely love it. With screen resolutions always increasing, the ability to easily compare two windows side by side will become an invaluable feature.

Aero Shake

Figure 8 - Aero Shake

Figure 8 - Aero Shake

When I first came across this feature, I shrugged it off as useless; however, I’ve already tried to use it twice since I booted back into Windows Server 2008. Aero shake is simple and provides a great way to focus on just one application. Grab the Title Bar, shake the mouse, and all the other applications disappear leaving you free to focus. I tried to capture this effect in an image as shown in Figure 8, so hopefully you get the feel of all the other windows disappearing.

The Taskbar

Figure 9 - Vista style Taskbar in 7

Figure 9 - Vista style Taskbar in 7

Figure 10 -Change the Order of Running Applications

Figure 10 - Change the Order of Running Applications

I’m not converted to the new taskbar in Windows 7 yet, and I will likely use the classic style, which you can achieve quite easily (figure 9.) The one thing I really like about the new taskbar is the ability to switch the order of the windows (figure 10), which is useful when you are trying to prioritize or group tasks. This functionality is part of Firefox, so I have found myself trying to switch windows in Vista, which of course doesn’t work–without extra software.

Jump Lists

Figure 11 - Jump Lists

I mentioned the jump lists in my inital thoughts article because I immediately liked them. However, I’ve found that I never use them–hopefully I can remember they’re there and utilize them. Jump Lists (figure 11) a smart lists of links specific to each application, such as a history of pages visited (IE), opened files (word), favorites (IE), and more. You can get to all these features in earlier versions of Windows, but now it’s much easier.

Whenever you open a program, an up arrow becomes available next to the program icon; click the list and save time.

Gadgets — Anywhere

Figure 12 - Moveable Gadgets

Figure 12 - Moveable Gadgets

I’ve never used gadgets with Vista. As soon as I first installed Vista, I disabled the sidebar, and after making an image, I never saw it again. Gadgets really don’t attract me. Vista appears to have gadgets anywhere (shows you how familiar I am with them)–thanks Christopher. but Microsoft have included the ability to move gadgets anywhere you like on the desktop. I still don’t like them and I wont use them, but this seems like an improvement to me. See figure 12 for my desktop gadget array.

Home Networking

Figure 12 - Set up a Home Network

Figure 12 - Set up a Home Network

I only have access to one copy of Windows 7, so I couldn’t test home networking (Windows  to Windows 7) out fully, but let me give you a sneak preview–home networking in Windows 7 looks good. Networking has always been a pain in Windows, so I really hope Microsoft get it right this time… or in other words I hope Microsoft help us stop getting it wrong!

Figure 13 - Secure Your Network

Figure 13 - Secure Your Network

When you save a network as a home network, Windows pops up a dialog box (figure 12), which lets you decide what you want to share at home. Connect a second Windows 7 pc to the same network, enter the key given to you by the first machine (figure 13) and you have instant secure filesharing. I’ll write more about this as I get to test it futher. I am a strong adovcate for home networking and believe each household with two or more supported devices (desktops, laptops, media extenders, bluetooth-enabled devices etc.) should utilize home networking.

Built in Troubleshooting

Figure 14 - Windows 7 Troubleshooting

Figure 14 - Windows 7 Troubleshooting

A computer that is self healing would put programmers like me out of a job. Imagine a computer that self diagnoses it issues, fixes them, and gets along its way. There is nothing I know of that can do this; a car can highlight problems and fix some of them temporarily (run-flat tires), and we can certainly repair ourselves if we get sick, but nothing can fully maintain itself forever… I think. Windows 7 is no exception, but the built in troubleshooting feature (figure 14) is fantastic.

Figure 15 - Windows 7 Messages

Figure 15 - Windows 7 Messages

The new message center (figure 15) highlights any issues such as anti-virus deficiencies, an unset windows update configuration etc. so you stay on top of any vulnerabilities that can otherwise be avoided.

Below is a collection of screens that show the troubleshooting process including identifying maintenance and performance issues.

Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

Figure 16 - Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

Figure 16 - Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

The program compatibility troubleshooter (figure 16) asks you a series of questions to help you get a piece of incompatible software working as is much more streamlined than in Vista (Christopher thanks for pointing out its inclusion in Vista.) Simply select the software that is giving you issues, list the problems associated with the software, select the operating system it does work with, run the test, and if the software works, save the settings. I spent a LONG time trying to find software that isn’t compatible and found everything works; thus, the screenshots below show me “fixing” 7zip. We’ll just assume this feature works and that it will help us in the future!

For now, I’m happy that functionality like this will be included with Windows 7.

Conclusions

I know I said at the beginning I’d share the things I like and dislike with the current build of Windows 7 (6801), but this review got so long that I decided not to include many of the things I dislike. For a short list of some of the things I dislike, read my initial thoughts.

I really don’t want to make the decision for you, and this early, it’s hard to tell. However, with all these features and more on the horizon (more about that soon), I can safely say I will be making the jump to Windows 7, one release at a time.



About Rich

Rich is the owner and creator of Windows Guides; he spends his time breaking things on his PC so he can write how-to guides to fix the problems he creates.

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Comments

  • Andrew Drajna

    have been a windows user since 3.0 and am currently hooked on xp , milaides new dell came with vista and it seems to me a very easy useful os (although resources are definitely taxed) I am leary of the quick release of 7 but as in the past I will check it , Does anyone have an idea as to resources required for 7?

  • ewandougie

    This looks too be a minor upgrade to Vista on the scale of 98/Me. Its come out too soon, Microsoft need to get RID of the NT Kerneral, it like 15 years old by now, they need to a complete rewire of the core. Also the new aero looks really big and unprofessional compared to Vista. This is one version I am deffinatly skipping.

  • ewandougie

    This looks too be a minor upgrade to Vista on the scale of 98/Me. Its come out too soon, Microsoft need to get RID of the NT Kerneral, it like 15 years old by now, they need to a complete rewire of the core. Also the new aero looks really big and unprofessional compared to Vista. This is one version I am deffinatly skipping.

  • ewandougie

    This looks too be a minor upgrade to Vista on the scale of 98/Me. Its come out too soon, Microsoft need to get RID of the NT Kerneral, it like 15 years old by now, they need to a complete rewire of the core. Also the new aero looks really big and unprofessional compared to Vista. This is one version I am deffinatly skipping.

  • Avinash Shrestha

    Is it possible to upgrade windows Xp to Windows 7 or it just works no VISTA?

  • Is it possible to upgrade windows Xp to Windows 7 or it just works no VISTA?

  • Is it possible to upgrade windows Xp to Windows 7 or it just works no VISTA?

  • Rich

    Avinash, I am unsure whether or not you can upgrade from XP to Seven. I believe you should be able to without a problem.

  • Avinash, I am unsure whether or not you can upgrade from XP to Seven. I believe you should be able to without a problem.

  • Shadowz

    [quote]I’ll stick with a real OS…Ubuntu Linux.[/quote]
    Ubuntu is a REAL OS? its build apon another OS called Debian, which is build on Linux which came from a REAL OS called “Unix”

    Windows 7 is more a real OS then Ubuntu ever will be :P
    not that i dislike Ubuntu tho

    OT: I got winXP, Vista and since a few days W7. So far it has its own drivers for ALL my hardware (just have to download my media one by windows update) and improved drivers for both my grafics cards. What i loved most is that they where already recognised and preset during instalation. and grafical wise they tweaked aero allot to look allot smoother and nicer then on Vista.

    Can just say that there thousands of small changes and tweaks from Vista to W7 B7000 already to be decent, an improved driver support and well, it just looks neater and this version is more done as a beta already then any previous windows was at its release date.

  • [quote]I’ll stick with a real OS…Ubuntu Linux.[/quote]
    Ubuntu is a REAL OS? its build apon another OS called Debian, which is build on Linux which came from a REAL OS called “Unix”

    Windows 7 is more a real OS then Ubuntu ever will be :P
    not that i dislike Ubuntu tho

    OT: I got winXP, Vista and since a few days W7. So far it has its own drivers for ALL my hardware (just have to download my media one by windows update) and improved drivers for both my grafics cards. What i loved most is that they where already recognised and preset during instalation. and grafical wise they tweaked aero allot to look allot smoother and nicer then on Vista.

    Can just say that there thousands of small changes and tweaks from Vista to W7 B7000 already to be decent, an improved driver support and well, it just looks neater and this version is more done as a beta already then any previous windows was at its release date.

  • [quote]I’ll stick with a real OS…Ubuntu Linux.[/quote]
    Ubuntu is a REAL OS? its build apon another OS called Debian, which is build on Linux which came from a REAL OS called “Unix”

    Windows 7 is more a real OS then Ubuntu ever will be :P
    not that i dislike Ubuntu tho

    OT: I got winXP, Vista and since a few days W7. So far it has its own drivers for ALL my hardware (just have to download my media one by windows update) and improved drivers for both my grafics cards. What i loved most is that they where already recognised and preset during instalation. and grafical wise they tweaked aero allot to look allot smoother and nicer then on Vista.

    Can just say that there thousands of small changes and tweaks from Vista to W7 B7000 already to be decent, an improved driver support and well, it just looks neater and this version is more done as a beta already then any previous windows was at its release date.

  • Todd

    The idea of not being able to upgrade XP is insane. I may as well make to move to Mac

  • Todd

    The idea of not being able to upgrade XP is insane. I may as well make to move to Mac

  • Todd

    The idea of not being able to upgrade XP is insane. I may as well make to move to Mac

  • Ian

    You can’t upgrade from XP and keep your applications/docs like you can by doing a Vista Update install. However, MS has confirmed that if you have XP then you qualify for the upgrade version of Windows 7 but need to do a clean install.

  • Ian

    You can’t upgrade from XP and keep your applications/docs like you can by doing a Vista Update install. However, MS has confirmed that if you have XP then you qualify for the upgrade version of Windows 7 but need to do a clean install.

  • Ian

    You can’t upgrade from XP and keep your applications/docs like you can by doing a Vista Update install. However, MS has confirmed that if you have XP then you qualify for the upgrade version of Windows 7 but need to do a clean install.

  • Erik

    These features look decent, but I’m not about to dish out more money for Windows 7 nor am I about to lose time and productivity migrating over to it. I’m a Vista user and it took me some time to get my apps updated and my system fine-tuned to run it well. It works great for me now. Maybe in a few more years when I upgrade to a new PC, I’ll do it – if the economy shapes up.

    What I would like to see is Microsoft create a reasonably-priced upgrade for Vista/XP users which actually does a good job of upgrading the OS and migrating all the settings, etc. over to it. Could it be that hard?

  • Erik

    These features look decent, but I’m not about to dish out more money for Windows 7 nor am I about to lose time and productivity migrating over to it. I’m a Vista user and it took me some time to get my apps updated and my system fine-tuned to run it well. It works great for me now. Maybe in a few more years when I upgrade to a new PC, I’ll do it – if the economy shapes up.

    What I would like to see is Microsoft create a reasonably-priced upgrade for Vista/XP users which actually does a good job of upgrading the OS and migrating all the settings, etc. over to it. Could it be that hard?

  • Erik

    These features look decent, but I’m not about to dish out more money for Windows 7 nor am I about to lose time and productivity migrating over to it. I’m a Vista user and it took me some time to get my apps updated and my system fine-tuned to run it well. It works great for me now. Maybe in a few more years when I upgrade to a new PC, I’ll do it – if the economy shapes up.

    What I would like to see is Microsoft create a reasonably-priced upgrade for Vista/XP users which actually does a good job of upgrading the OS and migrating all the settings, etc. over to it. Could it be that hard?

  • Janegael

    I teach computers to blind and visually impaired veterans and the ribbon idea is just horrible for anyone who can’t use a mouse. Microsoft is excluding handicapped people again and its both infuriating and sad.

    Access software like Jaws and ZoomText have never been able to really work well with Vista and now the designers have to try to make these programs work with yet another operating system. There is nothing sadder than knowing that your student could perform a task faster…or at all — if they could just use the mouse, or had a menu to choose from. Not everyone can memorize all the shortcut keys that never could replace menu access. It’s unfair of Microsoft to hold a monopoly and exclude a population who truly need computer access.

  • Janegael

    I teach computers to blind and visually impaired veterans and the ribbon idea is just horrible for anyone who can’t use a mouse. Microsoft is excluding handicapped people again and its both infuriating and sad.

    Access software like Jaws and ZoomText have never been able to really work well with Vista and now the designers have to try to make these programs work with yet another operating system. There is nothing sadder than knowing that your student could perform a task faster…or at all — if they could just use the mouse, or had a menu to choose from. Not everyone can memorize all the shortcut keys that never could replace menu access. It’s unfair of Microsoft to hold a monopoly and exclude a population who truly need computer access.

  • Janegael

    I teach computers to blind and visually impaired veterans and the ribbon idea is just horrible for anyone who can’t use a mouse. Microsoft is excluding handicapped people again and its both infuriating and sad.

    Access software like Jaws and ZoomText have never been able to really work well with Vista and now the designers have to try to make these programs work with yet another operating system. There is nothing sadder than knowing that your student could perform a task faster…or at all — if they could just use the mouse, or had a menu to choose from. Not everyone can memorize all the shortcut keys that never could replace menu access. It’s unfair of Microsoft to hold a monopoly and exclude a population who truly need computer access.

  • Pepper

    I have vista and I like it better than xp, But then xp was better than.
    So I am looking forward to be able to get 7. I like the improvements.
    But then computers are not my job, I use my computer at home, and just wish I could have had one in school.
    I hate mac I tried it I even took a course at a college,hated it even more.
    None of us are the same so every one enjoy which ever type you have
    Just be glad we have computers.

  • Pepper

    I have vista and I like it better than xp, But then xp was better than.
    So I am looking forward to be able to get 7. I like the improvements.
    But then computers are not my job, I use my computer at home, and just wish I could have had one in school.
    I hate mac I tried it I even took a course at a college,hated it even more.
    None of us are the same so every one enjoy which ever type you have
    Just be glad we have computers.

  • Pepper

    I have vista and I like it better than xp, But then xp was better than.
    So I am looking forward to be able to get 7. I like the improvements.
    But then computers are not my job, I use my computer at home, and just wish I could have had one in school.
    I hate mac I tried it I even took a course at a college,hated it even more.
    None of us are the same so every one enjoy which ever type you have
    Just be glad we have computers.

  • var_foo

    Every new version of Windows OP gets heavier and heavier and slower too.
    What is the point of all the bells and whistles when what you need is a really secure fast system? I doubt if Windfows7 will be faster or more secure; so why migrate?

  • var_foo

    Every new version of Windows OP gets heavier and heavier and slower too.
    What is the point of all the bells and whistles when what you need is a really secure fast system? I doubt if Windfows7 will be faster or more secure; so why migrate?

  • var_foo

    Every new version of Windows OP gets heavier and heavier and slower too.
    What is the point of all the bells and whistles when what you need is a really secure fast system? I doubt if Windfows7 will be faster or more secure; so why migrate?

  • Pingback: Will Windows 7 be a worthwhile upgrade? Let’s take a look! | Midsouth PC Repair()

  • Will Windows 7 be a worthwhile

    […] this article today about the new Windows 7 Operating System from Microsoft.  Definitely worth a read if you#8217re thinking about making the switch anytime […]

  • teamwolf

    I am an xp user and i tryed vista and it was terrible i used more that hardware than stated but whent back to xp i have tryed linux and mac which is the same system but mac is a fancer version with the proper updates and rip off charges for somthing you get for free all you are paying is for the proper updates ha ha mac people apple know how to rip you off
    i just hope windows 7 can deliver what it says on the box not just some fancey vista wich dosent work

  • teamwolf

    I am an xp user and i tryed vista and it was terrible i used more that hardware than stated but whent back to xp i have tryed linux and mac which is the same system but mac is a fancer version with the proper updates and rip off charges for somthing you get for free all you are paying is for the proper updates ha ha mac people apple know how to rip you off
    i just hope windows 7 can deliver what it says on the box not just some fancey vista wich dosent work

  • teamwolf

    I am an xp user and i tryed vista and it was terrible i used more that hardware than stated but whent back to xp i have tryed linux and mac which is the same system but mac is a fancer version with the proper updates and rip off charges for somthing you get for free all you are paying is for the proper updates ha ha mac people apple know how to rip you off
    i just hope windows 7 can deliver what it says on the box not just some fancey vista wich dosent work

  • Will You Upgrade to Windows 7?

    […] Mintywhite.com has a very good review of these apps here […]

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    […] out some of what#8217s new with Windows 7 here or keep up with Windows 7 guides […]

  • Keithmanzano

    hi i was just curious if i upgraded to windows 7 will it affect any of my installed programs ? i.e i have photoshop installed on my laptop & also northon 360 if i decide to upgrade to this will it delete them in any way ??

    • As long as you use the “Upgrade” option (and not a clean install), it will keep your installed programs. If you run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor http://windows.microsoft.com/upgradeadvisor/ on your PC before upgrading, you can make sure all installed software is compatible with Windows 7.


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